One and Two
by Regina St. Clare
At 86 years old, I am remembering my most favorite person from when I was six to nine years old. He is also one of top ten favorite people in my almost nine decades of life.
He is my maternal grandfather, Snappy. I playfully named him Snappy because he was anything but fast; he had a wooden leg. I once asked Snappy how he got his wooden leg. It's not the story I expected. His leg had become badly infected. My great uncle, who was a doctor, decided that the leg would have to be amputated. And it was, on a dining room table, by my great uncle. In 1945 there was no anesthesia, only hard liquor to lessen the pain. Things were very different back then.
My grandfather Snappy lived with my mom and dad and me, an only, lonely child, when I was nine. His wife, my grandmother, was deceased. He was a barber, and to go to the barber shop, he had to walk, with his crutch, up a steep hill in the morning, and down in the evening, after standing all day. He learned to endure much pain.
Snappy would often bring ice-cream home after a long day of barbering, after the up and down hill climb to the trolley. Today, when I want a feeling of comfort, I am tempted to have ice-cream.
Now, there’s another Snappy in my life, named Frank. He’s my companion of almost 15 years. He’s also slow-paced. When walking together, Frank and I are not compatible. I’m more the road runner—beep beep! You might say, my pace is double time his, if not more when I’m really impatient. Over the years, Frank has slowed more, due to medical issues. I’m forced to slow down with balance issues requiring a walking stick… not a cane.
So today, at 86, when Frank and I went to the gym, I decided to walk behind him. Even today, I’m usually out of the car and up to the gym door, walking stick and all, before Frank begins starting the forty-foot walk.
Walking behind felt immediately different. It was not that I felt I had to, or that someone in front of me was triggering my impatience. It was a profound feeling of peacefulness. Strange! There was no urge to move too fast, too much, too soon. My acquired impatient personality kinda disappeared. It was more peaceful. It gave me time to smell the flowers along the way, not just race to the door, the treadmill, the arm machine, the leg machine and out the door, back home for a snack and back to the computer.
What did walking behind really mean? Getting old, being left behind, can’t keep up, inferior, a cultural etiquette? Rather, it was a choice to step back… reflect… not to feel I have to… that I must, won’t have time, need to prove something, or need to have my own way, no matter what Jose. What am I running to… or running away from? Certainly not BEING HERE NOW! (a la Ram Dass)
These two Snappys in my life have turned out to be comforters and teachers—both men—one at the beginning and one at the ending of this life. Perhaps they are the bookends that serve to transform all the chapters of my life into one unconditional, loving heart.